Copyright law is concerned with the preventing of the copying of physical material. It is not concerned with the reproduction of ideas, but with the reproduction of the form in which ideas are expressed. Therefore, it only provides limited protection (relative to a patent) and the copyright symbol can be used without any registration (so long as the content truly is your own). Today, not only is protection given to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works but also to sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programs, computer programs and the typographical arrangement of published editions. The difference between a copyright and a patent is while a copyright, on the one hand, is a limited monopoly having its origin in protection closely analogous to patent rights, protecting the author’s efforts in literary, dramatic, artistic or musical compositions, the protection afforded by the patents law is broader than in the case of copyright. By grant of a patent, the patentee acquires an exclusive right to make, use and vend the thing patented by copyright, while the owner of the copyright acquires the exclusive right of multiplying copies and doing other things analogous to this. The fundamental purpose of copyright protection, therefore, is to promote societal development and thus the improvement of all persons — by encouraging the production and dissemination of creative works.
Infringements of copyright may be divided into primary or direct infringement, which consist of the unauthorized exercise by persons (not being the copyright owners) of rights restricted by the Copyright Acts, and secondary, or indirect infringement, which consist mainly of unauthorised dealings with articles which were made in infringement of copyright, together with various other acts. A basic distinction between the two is that secondary infringement requires the defendant to have some degree of knowledge that what is being done is an infringement, whereas in the case of primary infringement any such knowledge is not an ingredient of the cause of action.
Another related concept is that of passing-off. The reason why all traders and manufacturers of goods and providers of service wish to protect their name and build up their name is that they want their name or market to have an impact upon anyone who has needed their goods or services. That impact may take diverse forms, but one of them would certainly be that a name or mark would recall to the mind of a potential consumer or user of such services the source from where the goods originate or the person who provides the services. This is the impact of advertising and publicity by whatever means, including word of mouth and the build-up of reputation. It would not be right for courts to permit the reasons who have spent considerable time, effort, money, and energy in building up a name, sufficient to have an impact to lose control over such an impact by improper use of the very same or colourably similar name by another unauthorisedly or even dishonestly. Therefore, an action will lie for the passing-off of a work as the work of the plaintiff, if its title or appearance is such as to lead the public to believe that they are purchasing, or using, a work of the plaintiff and injury is likely to accrue to the plaintiff; it is not necessary to show an intention to deceive. The thing said to be passed off must, however, resemble the thing for which it is passed off. Such an action may be brought by publishers who have acquired the copyright in a work from the author, to restrain a publication of a similar work using the author’s name so as to induce the public to believe it was the same as the original work.
When Copyright Applies
Copyright are exclusive rights subject to the provisions of the Act, to do or authorize the doing of any of the acts laid down in the Act. These rights include:
- the right to reproduce the work,
- to issue copies of the work to the public,
- to perform the work in public,
- to communicate the work to the public,
- to make a cinematograph film or sound recording,
- to make any translation or adaptation of the work,
- to sell or give on hire any copy of the computer program or sound recording
When Copyright Does Not Apply
There is no copyright in ideas, subject matter, themes, plots or historical or legendary facts, however, original or brilliant and is confined to the form, manner and arrangement and expressions of the idea by the author of the copyrighted work. What copyright protects is not the raw materials from which the work is created but the skill and labor employed by the author in the creation of the work. A copyright applies to literary (books, scripts, even software) and audio-visual (music, photographs, movies) works. Registration is not necessary per se, but this depends on how popular the work is and how likely it is to be pirated. As copyright infringement has become commonplace in the Internet age, and you need a registration to take the matter to court, copyright registration has gained importance. With a copyright registration, you have the right to the following:
- Reproduce the work;
- Adapt it any way you please;
- Freely distribute copies to the public;
- Perform the work in public;
- License the work to another person or entity.
Copyright protection is valid for a duration of 60 years. If it is literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works the 60-year period is counted from the year following the death of the author. In the case of cinematography, films, sound recordings, photographs, posthumous publications, anonymous and pseudonymous publications, works of government and works of international organizations, the 60-year period is counted from the date of publication.
Fair Use of Copyright
If your website features book, music or movie reviews, you may be able to include some of the work without infringing the copyright. Parody is also considered fair-use, as is the use of copyrighted work in academic works. The same goes for ideas, titles, and facts. Finally, if the copyright expires on a particular work, it is fair game for anyone to rework or adapt it. Talk with a VC Copyrights Law Expert here